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Practical Shooting and the Makarov...

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by Stephen A. Camp, Apr 9, 2003.

  1. Stephen A. Camp

    Stephen A. Camp Moderator In Memoriam

    Hello. A time back, I did "range reports" on both the Bulgarian Makarov with the "Beast Slide" and Pearce grips and focused on shooting the pistol slow-fire for group to see what one might be able to do with these inexpensive, but not "cheap" pistols. I concluded in saying that while it might not be on my short list for defensive armament, it later occurred to me that it very well might be for someone else, either by financial necessity or simply preference.

    I had not shot the thing in a while so today I opted to do some shooting more akin to what's needed in self-defense scenarios and see how the pistol handled in other than slow, deliberate firing.

    The Pistol: For those who missed the original report, the pistol is a commerical Makarov that I bought new a time back. I had trouble seeing the sights clearly, particularly if trying to do anything besides slow-fire, so I opted to buy the then available "Beast" conversion through Makarov.com, which is merely a new Bulgarian slide fitted with Novak 3-dot fixed sights and refinished in what appears to be parkerizing or something like it. I'd also purchased a couple of Makarov.com's refurbished "concealed carry magazines." These are magazines that have been fitted with a brass floorplate that has a very slight finger extension as well as a new Wolff extra-power magazine spring and then the whole thing's refinished. I took the original magazine and the concealed carry one to use today and tried to shoot about an equal amount from each.

    Here's the pistol and both magazines along with the ammuntion used exclusively today, which is Barnaul's 95 gr JHP. It averages about 1030 ft/sec from a Makarov. The Makarov.com magazine is the one on top.

    Shooting: All shooting was done at 10 yards, standing, and with a 2-hand hold in a Weaver position. On the target pictures, you will see "rapid-fire." For this report, that means firing the instant I could get at least a semblance of a sight picture, what Jeff Cooper calls a "flash sight picture." In the case of the target in which all shots were fired double-action, the "rapid-fire" means that I fired but one DA shot as fast as I could get the sight picture. I then decocked the pistol and repeated this. In the SA firing, all rounds were fired with the pistol fully loaded with 9 rounds except for the last magazine to come up with the total number of rounds fired per target. This was done to check reliability off of a full magazine down to none. All of the shooting at least began with the pistol's magazine fully loaded and one in the chamber...as the gun would likely be carried.

    Single-Action: Twenty-five rounds were fired at the gray targets I usually use for 25 yard slow-fire. While I tried for the small yellow dot, if the sights were in the gray (roughly 5"), I fired. In this test, a two 9-round strings were fired, followed by one string of 7 for a total of 25 shots.

    It's no surprise that the single-action mode was the easiest with which to get rapid, decent hits compared to either the DA or DA/SA tests.

    Double-Action: Each of these twenty-five were fired double-action only as would most likely be the case for someone's first shot if using the pistol defensively. It was intended to see if the first shot necessarily would be way away from subsequent shots. Certainly, this is very dependent upon the individual shooter, but I wanted to see how far away it might be and figured repeating it 25 times would tell the tale.

    Not surprisingly, the group is larger than that fired single-action exclusively.

    DA/SA: Five strings of 9-shots each followed by one string of 5 shots for a total of 50 were fired with the first shot being fired DA. The subsequent rounds were fired SA, as would most likely be the case in a fight.
    As expected, the group was smaller than the double-action group as more shots were fired single-action than double.

    Observations: I did not note the "sharp" recoil mentioned in some writings on the firing of the 9x18mm Makarov. I did find the pistol extremely pleasant to shoot and there were zero failures to feed, extract and eject, or for the slide to lock back on the last round. Both magazines worked 100%.

    The sights made a big difference for me over trying to do this with the standard factory fixed sights. Were I a bit younger, the difference might not have been so noticeable.

    My eyes are NOT what they used to be; these larger sights were very helpful and well-worth the cost of the "Beast" slide.

    While it was not as easy to shoot quickly and rapidly for me with this DA/SA pistol as with a 1911 or Hi Power, it was not "bad." It was easier than shooting accurately than my usual pocket companion, an S&W Model 642 that's loaded with Remington 158 gr +P LSWCHPs.

    I still have concerns about this round having "enough" for protection use. With most rounds, 9x18 Makarov is similar to the warmest .380 ACPs where you get possibly too much penetration with FMJ and maybe not enough with expanding. I do think that for unobstructed frontal shots, the expanding rounds will go deeply enough, but have doubts should they encounter an forearm or should one have to fired from the side and punch an upper arm on the way to the vitals. I guess we all have to make our own decisions with regard to our own "ballistic comfort levels." That said, I'd rather have an accurate hit or two with the 9mm Makarov than a poor one from my .38 snub. While I practice with the snub fairly often, the Mak IS much more pleasant. This might count for something.

    Though fired from a different Makarov, this Barnaul 95 gr JHP expanded nicely in water. It penetrated between 8 and 10," and might do less in 10% ballistic gelatin...or tissue. I don't know.

    It is my view that these pistols, even though not a 9x19mm or .45 ACP in power remain popular with shooters because they can be shot and shot and shot w/o fear of wearing out the pistol, something that cannot be said for most other pistols in this price range. I think they're a bargain. Ammunition is also available for low-cost such that one can afford to practice with the gun.

    Even this "custom" Makarov on a new gun costs less than some new guns of perhaps less long-term durability. You don't have to spend an arm and a leg for a reliable, dependable pistol....but, the caliber's just not the best in my opinion.

    If by choice or necessity, the 9x18mm Mak is your defensive arm, you most likely already have met the first rule in a gun fight: "Have a gun" as they can be carried fairly easily. You also have a pistol that tends to be utterly reliable with most ammo, another tenet in defensive armament. It holds a goodly number of rounds and is easy to shoot. For a centerfire and using commercial ammunition, these are cheap to feed and serious users should be able to get "good" with them.

  2. cratz2

    cratz2 Well-Known Member

    Hello, Stephen! Thanks for the great 'real-world' shooting report.

    I haven't done a whole lot of shooting with my Bulgarian imported Russian (???) Makarov yet but what I have done has left me very impressed. Also impressive is the consistancy with which the very economical Barnaul HP ammunition expands.

    With these low cost Maks and this low cost ammo on the market, there truly is no financial reason that everyone who wishes to be to not be well armed.
  3. Dorrin79

    Dorrin79 Well-Known Member

    Dang it!

    I had finally gotten the Makarov bug out of my system that I acquired from your last range report.

    Now I find myself wanting one all over again.

    Seriously, though, thanks for the great info!

    That replacement slide with the improved sights would seem to be a must-have if one planned on using a Mak for a primary carry piece.

  4. Stephen A. Camp

    Stephen A. Camp Moderator In Memoriam

    Hello. I agree that a strong point for these pistols is that they can be shot lots for practice at low cost. Glad the post was of interest.

  5. Pilot

    Pilot Well-Known Member


    Thanks for the follow-up report on the Makarov. I have been a fan of these since they started to be imported to the U.S. in numbers in the early 90's. For several years I carried a commercial Russian Mak or Bulgarian Mak do to their inherent reliability, accuracy and concealiblity. I still carry a Mak when I need a smaller gun. I don't think the 9x18 round is that much of a liability and I am confident it would serve me well in a defensive situation. Your report just reinforced a lot of my thoughts on the Mak. That being said, if I can, I carry a BHP or CZ-75.
  6. hboy35

    hboy35 Well-Known Member


    please don't speak so favorably about the Mak. I am heading to the gun show this weekend to look for my first and I am afraid you will drive up the prices!!
    Seriously, I have been reading everything I can get my hands on before I purchase one, and have yet to find a credible source to say anything bad about them. I can't wait for the show!
  7. Dr.Rob

    Dr.Rob Moderator Staff Member

    Just curious Stephen, by the time you modify a Mak with pierce grips, novaks, extended mags, whats the total $$, and couldn't you buy a better pistol for the price of the modified Mak? I guess my question is, at what point does it stop being cheap?

    Nice write up as always.
  8. Pilot

    Pilot Well-Known Member

    Dr. Rob wrote:

    "by the time you modify a Mak with pierce grips, novaks, extended mags, whats the total $$, and couldn't you buy a better pistol for the price of the modified Mak? I guess my question is, at what point does it stop being cheap?"

    I'm not Stephen, but I do own five Makarovs. First, you really don't need to do anything to a Mak for it to be a great, self-defense pistol and plinker. What Stephen did probably cost $80 - $100, so you still have a sub $250 pistol. The only thing I've done to some of my Maks is add the Pearce grip which I still believe are under $20. My acquisition costs for all my Maks was $125 - $150 even for the E. German. Adding the Beast slide is $60, but I don't mind the small stock sights so I never did that. The stock mags are fine also.

    Bottom line is that the Mak or modified Mak is still inexepensive and one heck of a bargain, but not "cheap" in any aspect.
  9. Stephen A. Camp

    Stephen A. Camp Moderator In Memoriam

    Hello. The pistol and two magazines NIB cost me $150. The slide cost about that much so that totals out about $300. You can find CZ83s in that price range. You can buy other .380s or 9x18Mak caliber pistols in that range, but the Makarovs are built to last so even with the modifications, you still have a relatively inexpensive pistol that's utterly reliable, accurate, and built for long-term use.

  10. Bainx

    Bainx member

    Thanks for reinforcing my opinion of the lowly Makarov. Several times, I have come close to "upgrading" to a 9mm but, cost and necessity caused the urge to pass.
    When I don't carry my heavier, bulkier Glock 30, I have the Mak.

    As I recall, we waited and waited for about a year for a shipment of these to reach the U.S. last year. There was a long line of people I know who were foaming at the mouth to get theirs.
    Dorrin79 and hboy35...you need to hop on one of these quick while you can still get them easily!
  11. Stephen A. Camp

    Stephen A. Camp Moderator In Memoriam

    Hello. I own several handguns that cost more than my "lowly Maks." I reckon I'd sell my Maks, but the price would be exceedingly high. The reason is that I appreciate and trust handguns that work. These do and they're more accurate than expected and built for lots of shooting.

  12. Island Beretta

    Island Beretta Well-Known Member


    I have always viewed your range post as objective and very informative. Is it possible you could do one for the Beretta 92FS (I know you did the Taurus equiv.) and a Glock 17/19?

    Thanks much!!
  13. Stephen A. Camp

    Stephen A. Camp Moderator In Memoriam

    Hello, and thanks. I don't have a Beretta so I can't do that one and the only Glock I have is G26, but will do a report on it in the future.

  14. Newton

    Newton Well-Known Member

    As for cost let's not forget the Pearce grip and the custom carry mags, I'm guessing you probably added a Wolff #19 spring too.

    Adds maybe another $40 and for $340 you would be better served with a Keltec P11 or P40, Ruger P95 etc

    Having said that, I love my Bulgie, even though the frame pin holes have now worn to the extent that the DA trigger doesn't work, it's a superbly simple, and yet reliable weapon.

  15. Stephen A. Camp

    Stephen A. Camp Moderator In Memoriam

    Hello. It came with the Pearce grips and some plastic ones and one extra magazine. I did buy more as I would for any and all automatics I own. I do own fewer for the Makarov than most of my pistols which is silly since they cost $6 to $8 each. Like you, I'll stick with my Makarov, but possibly for different reasons as I don't care for forty caliber in any pistol, don't like Ruger centerfire automatics nor KelTecs. Not knocking them, just have no desire to own any.

  16. CZF

    CZF Well-Known Member

    Hello Stephen. While i truly doubt that any MAKAROV can be
    as nice as a CZ83. Your gun, like every gun you have
    is very nice looking.

    It has been said that the CZ75 is the Klashnikov of the pistol
    world. What is the Makarov... the SKS??

    That Barnual stuff is mighty impressive..i don't think that
    MAK owners are undergunned if they use it. The 83 MAK
    with those JHPS and my Glock 26 with Hardball..quite the
    choice. Like you..i now rely on the Federal .380 Hydras.
    I'd prob opt for the NGA .380 SENTRY if it was ever imported.

    Again, sharp looking MAK, and excellent write-up! Always
    interesting to see your projects.
  17. Stephen A. Camp

    Stephen A. Camp Moderator In Memoriam

    Hello. While I like AKs for shooting and such, I personally rate the CZ75 a bit higher! In my personal view, could I not have a Browning Hi Power 9mm, I'd go CZ almost certainly. I also rate the Mak a little higher in that both pistols mentioned are generally very good shooters in terms of intrinsic accuracy while the AK is best known for reliability under all conditions, but with less than stellar accuracy. Evidently, it has been "enough" for the jobs its had as it's remained so much in use and so popular. Again, not knocking the AK as I do respect its reliability and even like the cartridge.

    I either wrote it wrong or you might be remembering it wrong, but I don't use the Hydrashoks in .380 or any other caliber, but do use the Federal Classic 90 gr JHP on occassion in some .380s.

    Best and good shooting.
  18. C. H. Luke

    C. H. Luke Well-Known Member

    What's the scoop on the Beast slides?
    Under the impression they're not available anymore?

    Someone must know which pistol the Novak's on same were originally intended for?
  19. Stephen A. Camp

    Stephen A. Camp Moderator In Memoriam

    Hello. The Beast Slides are no longer available as an item to buy as the gunsmith producing them got chronic health problems. I think you can send your slide to www.makarov.com and they'll install sights. I think the Novak sight used is the smallest one they make.

  20. C. H. Luke

    C. H. Luke Well-Known Member

    Thanks Stephen,

    $130 for Novak's installed is a Very good deal!

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